Data has been used for decades in banking, from assessing credit risk to forecasting economic changes, and from tracking transactions to running the day to day processes with which a bank protects, saves and lends to customers and businesses.
But the advent of the internet, ever increasing speed and coverage of high speed mobile networks, popularity of smartphones, growth in e-commerce, in entertainment, in messaging, searching and everything else people do online, means the richness of data being produced is increasing exponentially.
And it is this rich seam of information which is both accelerating the growth of digitally enabled businesses and forcing them all to be constantly looking for new ways to obtain or process data.
Nowhere was this cascade of data-powered innovations more on show last week than at Money 2020 in Las Vegas.
The connection between data, digital and financial services was ubiquitous in every start-up and big business either presenting or exhibiting at the event.
In fact one regulator on stage at the conference, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWillaims even went so far as to describe rich data as the new currency.
So not surprisingly there were hundreds of examples on show of where companies were developing ways to generate value from data .
Businesses which had developed new payments processes, new ways of automatically tracking transactions and linking that to financial health. There were dozens of personal finance tools being demonstrated, alongside data monitoring systems, AI powered data processing systems, AI powered user interface services and many many more.
Of course a huge amount of the show is also focused on data security too, with 26 different sessions focused on fraud and theft prevention and protection, and again dozens of innovative startups working in this area.
But perhaps the most common data theme across the event this year was how data can actually be personalised, or even, as one neobank chief executive put it, hyper-personalised.
"The owners of the data are the people who created it, not the owners of the platform it was created on"
Increasingly, the data powered personalisation tools on display look at, with consent, the individual financial lives of customers or businesses and suggest options for them specifically - based on analysing their data.
BBVA already has a fleet of these installed in its mobile banking app, allowing customers to do everything from aggregating accounts into one place, to using AI to advise you on forthcoming bills, or setting automated rules to help customers save more and meet long term aims.
It's one of the reasons BBVA came first for the third year in a row in the The Forrester Banking Wave™: Global MobileApps Summary, 2019’.
Yet the most powerful and insightful ways in which data can and will impact the financial services industry came when those presenting were talking about how data from across different industries and geographies could be used.
One of those was David Marcus, Co-Creator of Facebook-backed Libra and Head at Calibra. Discussing the purpose of Libra he explained how for him it wasn't a new currency so much as a means to more seamlessly send money around the internet - like payment rails.
But what he also then referenced was how it should be easy to do this - to send money - on non-banking platforms. He said: “Moving money around the world with WhatsApp and Messenger is what will bring real value on a day to day basis.”
It is precisely that blurring of industries that BBVA Chairman Carlos Torres Vila also discussed, as he called for new global regulation mandating data sharing across industries and geographies to encourage innovation and competition.
The BBVA executive also made the point that the reason this should happen is because the owners of the data are the people who created it, not the owners of the platform it was created on. As such, they should get to decide where their personalised data flows, what is shared and for how long.
This, he added, could lead to precisely the kind of hyper-personalisation and truly global and digital services both Marcus and others at the conference were planning.
But for Torres Vila, it also meant that little businesses as well as big businesses could innovate using the same data at the same time. And with data free to flow across sectors, it could usher in a whole new set of products and services able to better help people achieve their ambitions - whether financial, educational, work-related, or hybrid versions of all.
This competition generated by a regulatory shift around data ownership and privacy, he concluded, was the best way to ensure that at the end of the day it was customers that were the winners when it came realising the value of their data.
Other interesting stories